One of the beauties of Tastet is that we are always discovering such great places to recommend in our city. Montreal is home to so many different kinds of eateries from the classics, everybody’s favorites, or you-must-dine-here suggestions, to new openings and re-openings, etc. Sometimes there is a treasure – and without a doubt, Hào falls into this category. Hào is unpretentious, run by passionate and friendly people who put their heart and soul into their business. Welcome (once more) to Épicerie Hào Comptoir Asiatique.
Hào has a couple of meanings : a person overflowing with ideas but it also means « good », as in « Ni hao » or ‘hello’. It is first and foremost a family story of three Montreal children with Filipino origins.
These three children – William, Charles and Rachelle – spent some of their childhood in a small Filipino karaoke restaurant in southwest Montreal, watching their parents shared love of cooking.
They opened Hào in May 2016 and from the beginning, it has been a huge success. The mouthwatering buns, the attractive but small space, and the charming owners have all contributed to this well-deserved reputation.
Last winter, Hào closed its doors for several months – a sort of ‘hibernation’ that has allowed them to revamp the premises, ready in time for the summer season. The space is just as elegant and full of light, but the changes allow for more comfortable seating – up to 12 people. Charles and several of his design colleagues are behind this new look – still minimalist – to meet the demands from many of their loyal customers. The beautiful space is purposefully a collaborative effort. « We are, above all, a creative project. Everything in this space has been created from around here by local businesses and artists, » explains Rachelle.
Hào’s concept remains unchanged : a simple, uncomplicated menu, thought through by William, that is meant to be a reminder of all their childhood foods. It has taken William two years to perfect these recipes which are prepared in-house and with fresh products. The buns are soft and the garnishes are juicy, just as they should be. Ever since they first opened, Hào has been included on our lists of ‘Favorite Buns’, and ‘Cheap Eats’.
Hào is still making their same delights, the main difference being that there is more space for the team to work in. « Hào wishes to be a safe place where we can be creative, where we have the liberty to explore all those flavours we knew as children. We have updated these classics with our own touches – the buns are presented in a deconstructed manner and we add our own garnishes. But when you eat them, they still taste like traditional Filipino cuisine. »
The house specialities are offered in two different ways : pork shoulder (bio pork braised in soy sauce, onions, garlic, sesame oil) served with a lightly sweetened soy sauce, fried shallots & onions ; and a veggie version with bio tofu, sauteed veggies, Kewpie mayo, crispy shallots & cilantro. These steamed buns taste even better with the dim sum also on the menu, and then there are excellent pork dumplings, kimchi and marinated cucumber salad. The delicious (and perfectly sweetened) homemade lemonade, made with green tea and honey, would be our suggestion for a beverage, and after that comes dessert – a matcha cake roll.
« What I really like is that we started with a super simple concept that has really grown ! We are totally in tune with our menu – it tastes like our own childhood, and for many of our customers, these steamed buns are their comfort food that reminds them of home. When we see our clients coming back every day to taste our food, these are the moments when we know that our project with Hào makes sense. »
The wait has most definitely been worth it. By offering a new and larger space, retaining the elegance and charm of before, this charming trio of owners has succeeded once again to win us over with their delicious offerings. Épicerie Hào Comptoir Asiatique is without a doubt an excellent gourmet address to (re)discover. Bravo!